Mozilla's Firefox? Firefox's Mozilla?
October 28, 2004 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Firefox ~ Mozilla What is the relationship between Firefox and Mozilla? Is Firefox just the revised browser component of the suite of programs called Mozilla?
posted by ParisParamus to Computers & Internet (32 answers total)
Exactly right. It's Mozilla re-skinned and re-branded in an attempt to be more attractive to non-Mozilla users. (That's my understanding, anyway.) It seems to be working out nicely.
posted by o2b at 2:41 PM on October 28, 2004

Yes. They are both created by the Mozilla Foundation. Firefox uses the same Gecko rendering engine as the Mozilla Suite, but it has an interface I think is much better, and it is snappier since it leaves off all that other stuff.
posted by grouse at 2:48 PM on October 28, 2004
Firefox grew out of the desire to make the best browser for Microsoft Windows. Eventually we began to build on Linux as well, and also Macintosh. Most of our development work is done on Windows, and so that platform naturally tends to lead although we express a desire to work as well as is feasible on every system we can. Today, our goal is to be the best browsing solution on Windows and Linux, while at the same time striving to improve our functionality on MacOS X in order to be competitive.

Firefox began because a group of people who used to work on the Netscape browser releases wanted to show the world what a browser would look like if it were developed using the flexible Gecko layout engine and XPFE, but without the constraints of commercial interest and the creep of esoteric features from the developer community. Given that User Interface development is not a committee driven process, where mob rule is not useful, a more discriminating, closely directed solution was sought.

Beginning with the core Mozilla code, unnecessary UI was removed, existing UI were refined and new UI added with the goal of providing efficient (speedy, easy to use, useful) web access. The goal was, and is, not to have more or less features than any other client (Mozilla included) but to have the right set of features to let people get their jobs done.

The initial version of this charter included the phrase:

"The target market for Firefox includes all users who are sufficiently sophisticated in computer skill as to be able to download and install their own browser.

This statement was made based on the expected reality of our marketing reach, distribution and so on. It was never intended to be used as a crutch by people wishing to add esoteric features to the browser, or to claim that Firefox was not designed for the "average" human being. Reality has shown that we are getting adoption in areas we had not seen before, and so in this revision I will expand the phrase above to read:

"The target market for Firefox includes all users who wish to use the Internet safely and efficiently."

This implies that our default presentation should be clean, simple and efficient, familiar where possible to the bulk of transitioning IE users. At the same time we recognize the role the web development and early-adopter/techie community plays in the dissemination of our software, so we try to provide an elegantly integrated set of tools to make their lives easier (including our Extension system) while not encroaching on the baseline performance of the browser.

At the time of writing, Firefox has already been very successful, scoring converts from Internet Explorer and much praise. We are not done. We have a lot of work to accomplish before we can reach 1.0. At the same time we are realistic - no product is perfect, 1.0 is not a panacea, there will still be bugs that need to be fixed, features that could work even better, and so forth. That's what 1.5s and 2.0s are for. Nonetheless we believe that when we hit 1.0 we will have achieved our original stated goal - to be the best browser, bar none.
posted by patrickje at 2:50 PM on October 28, 2004

Wow. Thanks. But I suppose the question remains, will Firefox and the Mozilla Browser continue to evolve separately, i.e., in parallel?
posted by ParisParamus at 3:01 PM on October 28, 2004

As far as I'm aware, the plan still remains to eventually retire the Mozilla suite and concentrate on the separate applications.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:30 PM on October 28, 2004

Okay, can you guys convince me why I should switch to Firefox? I don't see enough reason to switch from IE (the main reason being that IE is implemented into the OS). I know that's kind of a catch-22 reason for using IE and sort of an admission of Microsoft victory... but what makes Firefox so much better? Other than tabbed browsing which I don't care for all that much.
posted by swank6 at 4:26 PM on October 28, 2004

As far as I'm aware, the plan still remains to eventually retire the Mozilla suite and concentrate on the separate applications.

I don't think that's quite right. "We are not retiring the SeaMonkey [Mozilla] application suite, or its XPFE front end, in the foreseeable future. Several companies have shipped and will ship products based on this venerable component of the application suite, and on the entire suite. Many organizations deploy it or a derivative of it, such as Netscape 7.x. We intend to keep supporting these deployments in at least a conservative, sustaining engineering fashion. However, we still intend to focus on evolving Mozilla toward the more flexible application architecture pioneered by Firefox and Thunderbird. That's where our innovative engineering effort should go."

In other words, yes, Firefox is where the innovation will happen, but the Mozilla suite will likely live on as a one-size-fits-all corporate solution. My reading of the roadmap is that they're not really sure what that will mean, or whether there will be demand for the Mozilla suite going forward, but there are no plans to phase it out.
posted by gleuschk at 4:29 PM on October 28, 2004

swank6, tabbed browsing is useful, but more important for me are the extensions for Firefox. I do not think they realized the full potential of those extensions (see the Long Tail article, it talks about music, but the basic concept is the same) and thus the extensions do not work well when upgrading to a new release. Extensions I use: download with, bug me not, adblock, copy plain text, dictionary search, context highlight; and I have not explored all of them. Also, using different profiles with different security settings is much easier than playing with IE's settings. I still use IE, but just for Windows updates.
posted by MzB at 5:21 PM on October 28, 2004

swank6: no tie in with activex makes firefox more secure. The built-in popup killer works like magic and is a matter of checking a single check-box. Extensions are great, especially context search and ad-block.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:40 PM on October 28, 2004

Virus writers write for the exploits they keep finding in Internet Explorer - so while it's still a minority sport, surfing with Firefox is safer, too.

Me, I coldn't do without my 'highlight-any-word-and-right-click-to-Google-search', the integrated variety of search options in the toolbar (IMDB, MultiMap Postcode search, Wikipedia are my fave extensions) and the firefox Download management.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:44 PM on October 28, 2004

If you use several different computers you can get one of those nifty USB zip thingies (about the size of yer finger) and use a real nifty version called Portable Firefox. Carry it on a keychain.
posted by RavinDave at 6:00 PM on October 28, 2004

swank6, apart from the security and plugin abilities (which are solid), Firefox feels good. It has a very good UI, much better than Internet Explorer. The browser is such a simple (and legacy) interface that it's difficult to come up with ideas for major innovations, but the Firefox people have done an amazing job concentrating on the details. It's just a completely different experience.

As a long-time Mozilla user, I honestly didn't think I'd ever find useful such abilities as find-as-you-type, pop-up blocking (always figured it'd be too unreliable), and tabbed browsing. I use them all every single day now. Little things, little things.

Your best bet is to download it and try it out for a couple weeks. If you don't like it, then you don't like it; I wouldn't bet on that being the case, though.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 6:45 PM on October 28, 2004

"Find as you type" is so useful to me now, I can't remember how I lived without it.

swank6, this means that as you type, the first matching sequence in the page is selected, exactly as if you'd dragged over them with the mouse. Ctrl-G will then find any subsequent occurrences. If they happen to be links, then you can just whack "enter" and they'll load. This is much better than a "Find" dialogue box, because you save a key-chord and never suffer from the box obscuring the very text you're trying to see.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:19 PM on October 28, 2004

The feature I use most is probably the least talked about: I can select some text, right-click, and select "do a web search" and in another tab google will give me results for that word or phrase

Hey, I mentioned it!

And with context-search, you can extend this to all of your mycroft searches-- google, google groups, imdb, amazon...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:36 PM on October 28, 2004

Okay, can you guys convince me why I should switch to Firefox?

I don't know if I can convince you. I find it 15% faster, 15% more friendly in its interface. That's not incredibly convincing, but it is really easy to get used to.

The ability to open all the bookmarks in a folder in tabs with one click is what makes tabbed browsing for me. Every morning I hit one button and I have my 20 daily read sites all loaded up and ready to flip through.

Both browsers have certain features the other doesn't, but I like Firefox's better. Better in-page find and highlight. Cool extensions out there, more daily. Integrated RSS reader (you don't think this is cool now, but check out MetaFilter on FireFox and look in the bottom right hand corner - play with it a bit and then we'll talk).

Mainly though, it's just faster, and since it ISN'T deployed as part of your operating system, it isn't quite as full of security risks. That's important too. You know how your Mom's IE is always infected with spyware every time you go over to her house? Give her Firefox and see if the same thing happens in a couple month's time.

I think its unfair to sing praises to FF without disclosing that there's nothing stopping anyone from writing spyware/malware

True, but right now it is quite fair to say that the average user will experience a lot less of this with FireFox, because less of it is out there. It was also developed with IE's failures to learn from, so I'd bet it will have a better track record even in 5 year's time.
posted by scarabic at 7:39 PM on October 28, 2004

I don't think Firefox has nearly as much adware potential as IE. Sure, someone could write a naughty extension, but it'd be easy to remove as it'd be listed in the Extensions list. Also, Mozilla is pretty strict about where it allows extensions to be installed from.
posted by neckro23 at 7:58 PM on October 28, 2004

Is anyone aware of planned improvements to Gecko? I'm impressed with all the interface improvements Firefox offers, but the rendering engine is the browser's, uh, engine, and I never hear anything about improvements in that regard (I know it provides better CSS support than IE, such as position:fixed and generic :hover, but those have been there for years).
posted by gsteff at 8:50 PM on October 28, 2004

Well guys, I"ll give it a whirl... Most interesting to me are the find as you type thing and the opening bookmark folders all at once thing.
posted by swank6 at 9:49 PM on October 28, 2004

swank6: Before firefox started to take off, Microsoft had stated that they were not going to do any more development for internet explorer. (other than security fixes) Since firefox has been growing in popularity, they've reinstated the IE team. This means that Internet Explorer will finally get proper CSS support.

Because of Firefox, it's going to be easier for web designers to develop pages for ALL browsers. If designing for the WWW is made easier, then the WWW will be better. Even though you may be happy with IE, I think this makes a compelling reason to switch to firefox.
posted by seanyboy at 12:24 AM on October 29, 2004

swank6 - because find-as-you-type can be confusing for newbies, it's not enabled by default. Edit > Preferences > Advanced > Accessibility > Use Find as You Type to turn it on.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:51 AM on October 29, 2004

This isn't worth it's own AskMe question, but seeing as all you Firefox gurus are here... The one thing that annoys me about the tabbed browsing in Firefox is if you right-click and open a link in new tab, when you close that tab you go back to the tab immediately to the left rather than the tab with the link you clicked. Is there any way to alter this so it goes back to the last active tab?
posted by squealy at 3:48 AM on October 29, 2004

Focus Last Selected Tab 0.8.1
posted by MzB at 6:00 AM on October 29, 2004

...and squealy, the easiest way to open a link in a tab is to click on it with the middle mouse button (or click the scoll wheel on a wheel mouse). That feature alone sells firefox for me.
posted by bonehead at 6:23 AM on October 29, 2004

Why switch to FF?

Tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking are a must. But Opera and Konqueror do that as well. For me, the adblock extension is the reason to use FF. Right click on an image, and use a regexp to block all images from that server. A simple adblock rule of */ads/* gets rid of so much rubbish by itself. Whenever I find myself using Konqueror, I am amazed by how my of the web is adverts. I can't imagine how bad it is with IE.
posted by salmacis at 9:07 AM on October 29, 2004

I didn't know the middle mouse click or find as you type and I've been evangilizing FireFox since ~.3. Someone needs to write a guide.
posted by Mitheral at 9:26 AM on October 29, 2004

I was about to ask how to click open a link in a new tab - thanks bonehead.

Now I'm wondering if there is a quick clicking way to open a new blank tab - sort of like a new tab shortcut. In the past I'd always use the IE shortcut in my quicklaunch bar to open new blank windows. Is there a way to do this and open new tabs? Clicking a Firefox shortcut opens a new FF window rather than a tab.
posted by swank6 at 10:06 AM on October 29, 2004

I guess I have little room to complain and should just use Ctrl T. But if there's a way...
posted by swank6 at 10:07 AM on October 29, 2004

Since I agree with most of the comments already made (find-as-you-type, tabbing, extensions), I'm hoping I can be forgiven for using this as a Moz/Ffox question repository... Specifically, I'm wondering whether there's any difference (resource-wise) between opening a given page in a new IE window vs. opening it in a new Ffox/Moz window v. opening it in a new FFox/Moz tab. Obviously, if there is such a difference, I'd love to hear any available details...
posted by Sinner at 12:18 PM on October 29, 2004

"Now I'm wondering if there is a quick clicking way to open a new blank tab"

Double-click in the empty area of the tab bar (admittedly, this is a very narrow area when you have more than a couple of tabs open already). Or train yourself to hit ^T.
posted by majick at 4:03 PM on October 29, 2004

W/R/T resource-usage: I'll take your word for it, skallas (and thanks for answering), but anecdotally, it really does seem that having 10 IE or MZ or FF windows drags my machine down more than having those pages open via tabs. (Whether I should have 10+ pages open at once with other apps running concurrenly is a different question entirely.)
posted by Sinner at 4:18 PM on October 29, 2004

Thanks MzB and bonehead.
posted by squealy at 4:46 PM on October 29, 2004

Doubt you're still reading, skallas, but I'd considered the multiple-tabs-in-multiple-windows thing and checked previously... Last time things were extremely slow, I remember checking taskmgr and seeing Ffox was using an - extravagant - 90MB or so of my 512MB. Though I didn't have much else running, the (decent-enough) machine was substantially. A few minutes of playing around clued me in to the source of my confusion, though: when dealing with users' machines, they almost invariably start a new instance of IE by clicking on the tray icon if they want another window, which does in fact create another IEXPLORE.EXE image... I had mistakenly assumed that so doing was the same as ctrl-n'ing.
posted by Sinner at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2004

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